The Election of Women to the Zambian Parliament: An Analysis of the Under-Representation of Women in the 2001 and 2006 Parliamentary Elections

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Sampa, Monica Kapeso
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Great attention has been paid to women's representation in Parliament since the Women's Conferences that started in 1975. However, the number of women elected to the Zambian Parliament has been insignificant. In 1964, women held 6.7% of the total parliamentary seats and forty-five years later in 2009, they occupied only 13.9% of the seats.The study aims at understanding why women's representation in Parliament is low and to propose measures that should be put in place to increase the number of women being elected to the Zambian Parliament. Quantitative and qualitative methods of research were used in the study. The primary data was collected through self- administered questionnaires to female parliamentary candidates who lost the 2001 and 2006 elections, current female and male Members of Parliament (MPs); officials from Gender in Development Division (GIDD) and the Zambia National Women's Lobby (ZNWL). Party officials and Party Presidents were interviewed using semi-structured interviews. A focus group discussion was held with the Parliamentary Caucus for Women Parliamentarians. Further, information was obtained from documents at the National Assembly of Zambia, Electoral Commission of Zambia, GIDD and ZNWL. The samples were drawn using purposive and snowball sampling. Data from the questionnaires was analysed using the Statistical Package for Social Sciences (SPSS). The study is organised in five chapters. The research question was "why are fewer women than men being elected to the Zambian Parliament?" The findings of the study were that few women consider standing for election because of many factors such as lack of financial resources, family responsibilities, cultural attitudes, lack of support from political parties due to financial constraints and the fact that many of the selection committees are dominated by men who pick their fellow men as parliamentary candidates. Statistics have shown that out of 1298 parliamentary candidates in 2001, only 204 were women. 197 women were adopted by the political parties while seven stood as independents and only nineteen women were elected to Parliament. In 2006, out of 691 parliamentary candidates, ninety-four were women. Sixty-seven women stood on political party tickets while twenty-seven stood as independents and only twenty-two were elected. The study also found that women faced challenges during campaigning such as corruption, harassment, intimidation, stiff competition, mudslinging, cheating, lack of solidarity among women, insults and attacks, creation of stories of theft, witchcraft, infidelity, and being undermined by male opponents. The Republican President in Zambia has powers to nominate Members of Parliament as provided for by Article 68 (1) in the Constitution. However, from 1978 to 2005, no woman was nominated to Parliament. The National Gender policy which was adopted in 2000, has also not addressed fully the practical issues pertaining to politics which women aspirants to Parliament face. In order to address the under-representation of women in parliament, it was recommended that the quota system and reserved seats should be adopted by political parties and that political parties should be funded by the Central Government. It is also important that issues relating to women representation in Parliament are supported by legislation. The quota system for parliamentary seats and candidature must be enshrined in the Republican Constitution. Women should cultivate self confidence, assert themselves and stand for election out of conviction. Cultural aspects, discrimination, marginalisation and violence towards women in politics must also be addressed. Sensitisation, civic education, public awareness programmes and training of women parliamentary candidates in leadership skills must be carried out prior to the elections. The mixed proportional representation which was recommended by the Electoral Reform Technical Committee (ERTC) in 2003 should be introduced because it recommends for the number of seats which should be reserved for women. This study has found that women continue to lag behind in politics and to face difficulties to access Parliament. Zambia has failed to live up to its 1997 SADC declaration of reaching 30% minimum representation of women in Parliament by the year 2005.
Representation in Parliament- Women- Zambia , Parliamentary Candidates in Elections-Women- Zambia , Underrepresentation of Women 2001 and 2006 Parliamentary Elections-- Zambia